An Underrated Message in Agust D’s D-DAY
D-DAY’s lyrics remind people what true contentment stems from and highlight the pitfalls in thinking the key lies in cyberspace.
D-DAY sends Agust D’s most timely and multifaceted message yet. He hits the nail on the head when it comes to the root causes of many social ills and finds clever ways to reveal the remedies for those root causes. D-DAY explores the reasons people are so quick to villainize each other, especially online, leading to the revelation that a truly free society is achieved through solidarity, patience, and centeredness, quite the opposite of what social media incentivizes.
Division Through Alternate Realities
There is an undeniable appeal to “choose your own adventure” experiences. Interactive Netflix specials, algorithmically-generated YouTube playlists, TikTok’s “For You” page… personalized media intake is billed as desirable and a way to keep audiences as engaged as possible. The tech world has always championed an increasingly online world for its potential to give people more of what they want and less of what they do not. The latest version of this celebration focuses on buzzy topics like Web3, cryptocurrency, and an overall more decentralized online experience. Decentralized internet experiences, where users are their own moderators and content generators (Discord chats, for example), are not inherently negative, but they have notable flaws that are brushed aside for the sake of pitching a digital utopia.
There is a massive problem with the gamification of media consumption: if media increasingly targets an audience of one, a shared reality fades. The more time people spend consuming media that is curated to match individual wishes, preferences, and provocations, the more time each individual forms a different interpretation of events. This is harmless at times, but the same tools used for harmless fun are cause for concern.
The antidote for concerningly individualized interpretations of reality cannot be found in the sources of those interpretations in the first place. In other words, technology will not fix the issues technology has caused. An entirely separate framework is needed to attain a truly better future, and D-DAY finds answers in analog experiences. The true key to feeling centered and content is to not romanticize the concept of being decentered nor the platforms that drive discontent.
Division Through Information Overload
The sheer quantity of information that is free and easy to access crowds out so much. It sounds exciting to think a world of information is at one’s fingertips, but a greater quantity of content can also dilute its quality. The human brain is not meant to process such a deluge of content, good or bad! The endless swamp makes it nearly impossible to filter the trash from the truth and the delights from the dangers. As the “tsunami of info,” as Agust D puts it in “Haegeum,” keeps on flowing, it carries away context, leaving people with nothing to grab onto but fragments of stories and facts. Decentralized worlds are incomplete ones. Agust D draws a contrast in “HUH?!”:
“Internet world and reality are quite different… It's disgusting to pretend that you're clean… Many articles and gossip, the villain in the information age.”
“Polar Night” repeatedly revisits this counter-argument to feeling morally superior:
“If you’re not on the same side, we’re enemies”
“The audiеnce sees blood as they bite еach other… That interpretation that only suits my mood / Truth and lies are up to your taste”
“It is all dirty (Am I also clean?) / It is all dirty (Are you clean?)” (emphasis added)
Before condemning someone based on a rumor or incomplete piece of information picked up in the endless sea, it is critical to stop and remember that someone else sifting through that same sea can often find evidence for the opposite, too. Agust D reminds people that no one is a saint, and anyone can appear as anything but, with the right cherry-picking. He reminds people in “Snooze”:
“Don't forget, the world isn't very patient / Don't ever laugh at other people's controversies / Because that might happen to you someday.”
Agust D does not absolve individuals from accountability for their misbehavior online, but he does not say the buck stops with individuals either. D-DAY saves its shaming for the systems that fuel internet users’ meanest impulses and saves its compassion for fellow players in the same messed-up game. Empathy is shown towards those who demonize each other online, because it is natural to try to turn people into one-dimensional characters when trying to make sense of an onslaught of information. Every story needs characters and conflict, and the internet’s need for stories makes the impulse to stereotype people not okay but understandable.
Why the Digital World’s Downsides Persist
Two main ills in today’s society are the dissolutions of a shared reality and of complete, nuanced pictures. What both connects and compounds those issues is not just the internet, but the lack of resistance to what the internet does to humanity. The digital world’s woes prevail because people are looking at the wrong target: each other. In “Haegeum,” Agust D points the finger at the real villains:
“Endless influx of information prohibits freedom of imagination and seeks conformity of thought / All these painful noises blind you… All the controversy incessantly / Triggers confusion in judgment… Really, what is it exactly that’s been restricting us? / Maybe we do it to ourselves / Slaves to capitalism, slaves to money / Slaves to hatred and prejudice / Slaves to YouTube, slaves to flexin’ / Selfishness and greed have gone off the rails… Opinions clearly split depending on what's to gain.”
Trying to boost one’s self-esteem by tearing others down is a fool’s errand. Everyone is in the same boat, trying to navigate the same cruel and unjust waters. The actual recipient of people’s rage ought to be the systemic factors that perpetuate dog-eat-dog dynamics in the first place. He concludes the above passage with:
“Everyone’s been blinded by envy and jealousy / Without realizing that they’re putting shackles on each other.”
The internet content that is primed to go viral revels in schadenfreude, and Agust D urges people to not fall for it. He points out the fruitlessness of tearing one another down and encourages people to see one another as more likely to succeed if not distracted and divided by those with an interest in perpetuating the fragmented status quo. Agust D argues people are wasting time and energy on attacking each other, instead of directing effort towards a future that feels truly freer.
Combatting Division by Letting Go and Letting Others In
Agust D does not just identify the problems underlying many social ills. He also points at a key for countering them: getting reacquainted with the “real world.” With D-DAY, he commits to making every day count by moving his energy away from the real enemies of joy: information overload, the loss of being able to see other people as full people who are worth getting to know offline, and a preoccupation with the past and/or future. He finds contentment by prioritizing what truly matters: the present moment and human connections.
An insightful conversation unfolds between “People,” a song from one of Agust D’s previous albums, and “People Pt.2,” from D-DAY. “People” is a reminder that the little joys in life stem from connections:
“Your ordinary became my special / Your special became my ordinary / My ordinary became your special / My special became your ordinary.”
“People Pt. 2” reiterates the need for companionship:
“They say life's a struggle between resistance and submission / I say it's a struggle against loneliness.”
Elsewhere in “People Pt.2”:
“I want a sincere connection with others / Forever's something like a sandcastle… It comes crumbling down at the calmest of waves.”
Agust D talks about the dread of knowing the good things in life can slip away as easily as an ocean wave, but he also uses a wave metaphor to feel better about going through rough patches; the good and the bad in life are both temporary. In “People,” he says:
“There is nothing that lasts forever in this world / Everything is just a happening that passes by.”
Agust D goes on to contemplate the feeling underlying loss: “it’s the dread that makes us so sad” (emphasis added). He views loss as linked to a sense of dread, a strong fear of people who add the “special” to one’s “ordinary” leaving without warning. The way to get rid of this fear is to stop living in the future. The present moment fails to be joyful when it is consumed with worrying about what might come to an end. Fate can easily wash away a relationship like a sandcastle, so rather than waste time planning a seemingly ironclad future, Agust D reminds people to just cherish the here and now while it lasts.
Happiness in its purest form comes from the present day, because the past and future are unreliable narrators. After all, as he says in “SDL”:
“Memories are bound to be glorified.”
An all-digital future might be branded as a cure-all, but when people recognize the discontents stirred by sugar-coated or otherwise spun stories, they can realize that what happens in real time is the place from which real truth and understanding lie.
D-DAY can be interpreted as a warning and a reminder of the risks of a “choose your own reality” future; it advises people to not fall for pitches of idealistic ends coming via focusing more and more on individuals’ beliefs and ideals. Just like Agust D reminds people to not “mistake freedom for self-indulgence,” he warns people not to conflate singular experiences with full-picture truths. The keys to understanding and insight lie in communication, in tangible connections and visible openness.
Agust D does not argue that digital connections are all negative, but he does make the case for not viewing the web as providing the sole answer to the meaning of life and the sole blueprint for building a better future. Those who pitch technology as such are selling something Agust D isn’t buying. Instead, he’s investing in his unfiltered present moment, one that caters to no one in particular. Long-term contentment only comes from seeing others as people at equal risk of being led astray in a sea of online garbage and rage-stoking tech platforms.
D-DAY digs deep to assess what is causing societal damage and how to reverse course, and the importance it places on solidarity, curiosity, and mindfulness are worth commending.
For more thoughts on D-DAY, check out the corresponding episode of 17 Carat K-Pop!
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